That’s a bird report headline from PABIRDS, February 7, 2016. If you’re not familiar with 4-letter bird codes it’s a meaningless message and you wouldn’t know these may be Life Birds. (Fortunately the names are inside the report.)
Few birds have short names so abbreviations come in handy when you’re writing down a lot of them … as we’re doing today for the Great Backyard Bird Count. The U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) ran into this problem early on and made a standardized list of 4-letter codes for birds in North America based on their complete English names. The coding scheme works roughly like this.
4 words in name: First letter of each word. Greater white-fronted goose = GWFG
3 words in name: First letter of first 2 words + 2 letters of the last word. Great horned owl = GHOW, Red-eyed vireo = REVI.
EXCEPT if the last two words are hyphenated. I always get this wrong! It’s the reverse of the rule above and there aren’t many names that fit this pattern. Rule is: First 2 letters of first word + first letters of last 2 words:
Eastern screech-owl = EASO
Eastern wood-pewee = EAWP
2 words: First 2 letters of each word. Snow goose = SNGO, American robin = AMRO
1 word: First 4 letters. Sora = SORA, Brambling = BRAM
Collisions: Sometimes two bird names result in the same code as in BTGW for both the Black-throated green warbler and Black-throated gray warbler. In this case, look up the code using the links below.
Question: What do these two people have in common? On the left, a real person. On the right, the symbol for a fictional one.
Answer: They have the same name and there’s a bird connection.
Birders, did you know…?
The person on the left is ornithologist James Bond. Born in Philadelphia in 1900 he was the curator of ornithology at the Academy of Natural Sciences and the preeminent authority on birds of the Caribbean. His definitive field guide, Birds of the West Indies, was first published in 1936. Updated over the years, it was the only field guide devoted to Caribbean birds until 1998. Click here to read more about the real James Bond.
Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond 007 books, was an avid birder and writer who spent every January and February writing novels at his villa in Jamaica. Of course he had a copy of James Bond’s field guide to help him identify local birds. When he needed a name for his 007 hero he chose James Bond because it was “brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon, and yet very masculine – just what I needed.”
Fleming received James Bonds’ permission to use his name and they later met in person. Fleming also connected birds and Bond by placing many bird references in Dr. No including a guano (bird poop) mine and a bird sanctuary for roseate spoonbills. Click here to read about the 007 connection.
How did I find this out? When I returned from my Caribbean trip last month, Tony Bledsoe told me about the two James Bonds.
Thanks to Wikipedia, the source of this information. Note the copyright information below: * photo of James Bond the ornithologist in 1974 from Wikimedia Commons. Click here to see the original. * Screenshot from the Dr. No trailer, James Bond 007, from Wikimedia Commons. Click here to see the original and its rights information
Today we’ll have a plant identification quiz. I have an answer but you may have a better one.
I found this plant on June 29 at Dead Man’s Hollow in Allegheny County. The leaves are so distinctive that its identity begs for some detective work. Here are the clues I gathered:
alternate on the stem,
edges are entire (not toothed),
leaves are perfoliate. (The stem perforates the leaves, a very cool feature.)
bottom leaves are larger than the violet leaves nearby.
The plant had no flowers and no buds. Instead it had developing fruits which gave me clues about the flowers. Here are two photos of the fruits.
The fruits are:
on stems that sprout from perfoliate spots on the leaves
three sided with a seam in the middle of each side. Does this mean the flower was three-petaled or six-petaled?
still maturing? Or are they in their final form?
I looked up “six petals with alternate, entire leaves” in my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and found a familiar spring wildflower with perfoliate leaves.
However, I am not completely satisfied with my identification. I have never seen “my plant” arc horizontally like this when it’s blooming and the fruits in the illustration look different. Is my Newcomb’s Guide missing a species? Have I never noticed that the plant “lies down” in the summer? Are the fruits going to match the illustration when they mature in a few weeks?
So here’s the quiz: What plant is this?
Leave a comment with your answer. I’ll post my guess after I’ve heard from you.
UPDATE: See the Comments for the answer and a link to the flowering version of this plant.